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Avoid Sales Burnout—Lessons Learned from "Death of a Salesman"

Arthur Miller's 1949 play ‘“Death of a Salesman” is about what happens when a salesman, Willy Loman, fails to accept the changes happening within himself and the society around him. A self-centered man who fails to appreciate his wife, he also suffers from an inability to acknowledge his own limited success. The play demonstrates how a person’s self-perpetual denial can impact those around him, and include them. Ultimately, Willy’s tragic end is the failure to realize the American dream (and a really bad case of sales burnout).

Arthur Miller said in 2001 that Willie Loman's situation was more common than it was when he wrote the play: “A lot of people are eliminated earlier from the productive life in this society than they used to be.” And today in 2017, the constantly changing technology, the sea of competition, diversity of platforms, multiplicity of mediums, spheres of social networking, and the relentless drive to do it faster and faster are all putting unbearable pressures on salespeople.

Today, many men and women in sales are avoiding the mirror, believing, like Willy, that their inability to achieve their ideal of financial success is somehow a reflection of their own self worth. In order to learn from Miller’s play and avoid Willy’s fate, today’s salespeople should be aware of the following problems listed in this Criteria for Success article, which include:

  1. Not successfully overcoming self-limiting beliefs
  2. Focusing on self instead of buyer
  3. Too focused on their own agenda versus the client’s objectives
  4. Not learning from each other and not sharing best selling practices
  5. Not working effectively with the management and other parts of the company to get the support needed
  6. Not using internal systems, such as CRM systems, to effectively manage the sales pipeline and process

An article in Forbes offered the following as being among the signs of sales burnout:

  1. Exhaustion: Feeling tired all the time—emotionally, mentally or physically—the sense of not having any energy, of being completely spent.
  2. Lack of Motivation: Not feeling enthusiastic about anything anymore or lacking internal motivation. It may be harder to get started in the morning, and it may feel like you have to drag yourself to work.
  3. Frustration: You may feel disillusioned and fighting the feeling that your work doesn’t matter. You might be more pessimistic than usual about your work and your contributions.
  4. Interpersonal Problems at Home and at Work: Having more conflicts with other people, such as getting into arguments; or withdrawing, talking to coworkers and family members less. You’re there physically but not mentally.
  5. Not Taking Care of Yourself: Drinking or smoking too much, being sedentary for long periods of time, poor eating habits (eating too little or eating too much junk food), or lack of sleep.

If you are experiencing sales burnout, Forbes included the following as suggestions for what to do about it:

  1. Take Relaxation Seriously: Meditation, listening to music, reading a book, taking a walk or visiting with friends and family—designate time for it.
  2. Cultivating a Rich Non-Work Life: Find something outside of work to be passionate about that's challenging, engaging—i.e., hobby, sport, fitness activities, volunteering in the community.
  3. Unplug: Don't let work stress seep into family and vacation time—set boundaries by turning off cell phones at dinner and delegating certain times to check email.
  4. Get Enough Sleep: Research suggests that having fewer than six hours of sleep per night is a major risk factor for burnout—poor sleep can have negative effects on job performance and productivity. It can lead to fatigue, decreased motivation, impaired mental function.

In Willy Loman, Arthur Miller gives the audience — and certainly today’s salespeople — someone with whom they can relate. This is someone who fears being left behind in the rapidly changing times. So, today’s salespeople should heed Miller’s warning — take care of themselves, remain in step with the times and in tune with others. Avoid tragedy (and sales burnout) and enjoy prosperity instead.

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About the ConnectLeader B2B Sales Blog

The ConnectLeader B2B Sales blog is written to share productivity tips, tools, news, and other information relevant to managers and senior executives interested in B2B sales productivity, demand gen, inside sales, sales operations, and business development issues.

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